Attorney General Eric Holder has taken important steps to address disparities in the justice system, but there is more he can do.
(The Root) To his credit, the nation’s first black U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has not shied away from discussing race and its impact on our criminal justice system. Shortly after he was confirmed, he famously said that ”in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards”–a statement for which he was roundly criticized, but for which he deserved praise.
Holder has done more than just talk about race. He has launched an examination of the criminal justice system, focusing on the effects of race and on ways to rid the system of racial bias.
The pervasive influence of race on the criminal justice system is well-documented and shocking. Earlier this year, in a case that challenged the systematic disenfranchisement of former felons in Washington State, Farrakhan v. Gregoire, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a watershed opinion that recognized ”compelling” evidence of racial bias in the state’s criminal justice system. The court found that, ”in the total population of potential ‘felons’[in Washington State]…, minorities are more likely than whites to be searched, arrested, detained, and ultimately prosecuted.” National statistical data bears that out: In 2007, African Americans represented 13 percent of the general population, but they comprised 39 percent of the nation’s federal prison population.